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  • The Genesis of the Otaku Phenomenon in Spain A Journey through Fanzines, Associations, and Conventions during the 1990s
  • Salomón Doncel-Moriano Urbano (bio)

For the early community of Spanish otaku, manga and anime were "expressions of Japanese art," comparable to painting and literary masterpieces. 1 Their veneration of these genres, their close relation with the industry, and their influence in the construction and development of the current state of affairs surrounding manga and anime in Spain cannot be properly understood without insight into the history of the Spanish otaku community's development throughout the 1990s. The voice of fandom can be heard in manga and anime conventions and read in the nonprofit fanzines they created. The role of otaku associations should not be underestimated either, since they not only contributed to the dissemination of manga and anime but also endeavored to minimize the effects of censorship and bans that these examples of Japanese popular culture faced during their first steps into the Spanish market.

Most research on manga and anime in the Spanish context revolves around such topics as fansubs and scanlations, the present state of affairs of the anime and manga industry, and literary criticism of animated masterpieces and their adaptations into different formats and languages. However, little attention has been paid to the origins of the Spanish fan revolution through the prism of otaku literature from the 1990s, the nature of the Spanish otaku community, and otaku interaction with these cultural products and the industry in that period.

This essay details the rise of Spanish manga and anime fandom in the 1990s, which has been largely overlooked in Anglophone and Japaneselanguage studies of anime fandom to date. How did the fan revolution originate? When did Spanish otaku start translating manga for their fellow fans? Where did they express their opinions? And, last but not least, how did some otaku manage to start their careers in the manga and anime industry, resulting in the current state of affairs? These are the main questions this essay [End Page 31] addresses regarding the otaku phenomenon in the Spanish context. This discussion of Spanish otaku may be useful in shedding light onto other topics currently under discussion in fan studies.

The Term "Otaku"

Spanish fandom started to use the term "otaku" to refer to the community of fans during the late 1990s. The fan literature that this article is based upon uses the word "otaku" repeatedly, proudly alluding to the fan community of manga, anime, and Japanese popular culture of that time. According to the components of some major manga and anime associations from the 1990s, the use of this epithet was derived from the song "Tatakae," the opening theme of Otaku no Video, which became the hymn of the first generation of Spanish otaku. Under this premise, and considering Panini's publication of a Spanish magazine about manga, anime, and Japanese culture, Otaku Bunka, since 2016, I have found it appropriate to refer to Spanish fandom as "otaku" since it mirrors the perspective and self-conception of fans from the genesis of the phenomenon to the present day.

The Origins of the Fan Revolution

Japanese comics and animated series enjoy a leading, privileged position in Spain and around the world nowadays, due in part to the technological progress of the last decades. However, only two decades ago, the presence of anime and manga on Spanish TV channels and bookstore shelves was infrequent. A brief overview of the first commercialized manga and anime in Spain will help familiarize the reader with the genesis of this transnational phenomenon.

The Advent of Anime Productions

Claiming that one specific anime was the first to be broadcast in Spain could be considered risky and imprecise, although previous research points out that the first Japanese animations translated and dubbed were aired between the late 1970s and early 1980s. 2 That period coincided with the arrival of animated [End Page 32] productions such as Kimba the White Lion ( Janguru taitei), Speed Racer (Mach GoGoGo), and Mazinger Z , broadcast on TVE, the main national state-owned public-service television broadcaster in Spain (Figure 1). The 1980s brought to Spain popular shôjo series such as Candy Candy and...


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